With Nottingham-based brand agency Threerooms announcing Nottinghamshire YMCA as their ‘Charity of the Year’, the company’s Senior Brand Designer Zoe Scott-Smith wasted no time in taking her chosen fundraising challenge to the next level and has so far raised almost £800 for the cause.
Having worked with the regional youth charity on design projects for over two years, Threerooms chose to support YMCA after witnessing the scope of support the charity provides to enable young people to belong, contribute and thrive in their communities.
All funds raised will go directly into helping the not-for-profit movement deliver life-changing programmes and services for at-risk children and formerly homeless young people living at the charity’s supported accommodation across the region.
Walking from Nottingham to Paris in two months
For Zoe (36), from Carlton, this commitment meant grabbing her walking shoes and trekking the ambitious distance from Nottingham to Paris (357 miles) in just over two months! Operating under COVID restrictions, the distance challenge was completed ‘virtually’ in locations around Nottinghamshire, but the adventure took a turn that Zoe did not expect.
Not only did she smash her walking deadline and actually ended up completing 375 miles, but she developed such an incredible Instagram following that her efforts inspired others to get moving and take better care of their own wellbeing. Zoe’s efforts even landed her on JustGiving’s top 20% fundraisers for August 2021!
‘Newfound love for nature and outdoors’
The picturesque route saw Zoe trekking between five and seven miles every day for two months as she adventured through areas ranging from Clumber Park to the beautiful woods in Colwick forest.
Zoe explained: “Doing a desk role full time, it really was all about walking during every chance I could get – lunches, straight after work and evenings. I walked everywhere – Clumber Park, Attenborough Nature Reserve and National Trust parks (local was the key!) and finished my challenge a couple of days before my deadline so I just kept going!
“I was out there walking through storms, hail, heatwaves – the lot! I have loved being part of such an inspirational and insightful challenge. Raising money for such a brilliant charity that supports young people in the local area is amazing, but this journey has also helped me learn a lot about myself – my determination, how far I can push myself, and learning a new passion.”
Youth mental health post-COVID
In August 2021, BBC reported how more than half (52%) of 16-year-olds who took part in a research project felt their mental and emotional health had worsened during the pandemic.
“The idea of helping young people got me off the sofa,” said Zoe. “I was a fully-fledged couch potato before this challenge, and so I wanted to take on a huge physical undertaking to get active. I have realised that you don’t have to leave your city to go places and help people.
“Whilst raising awareness for this youth movement, I feel that YMCA has helped me in many ways too as my life has changed through this fundraiser. Like a lot of people, the pandemic left me feeling stuck in one place. I definitely got into the habit of staying indoors; it can build up with not really doing much. So, I wanted to get moving and engage people online through my journey.”
Mental health benefits of nature
“After the first week, I wondered what on earth I was doing, but the more I walked and began to see the benefits, the more a sense of relaxation began to come with it,” Zoe reflected. “Now, I absolutely love walking and being outdoors! Most importantly, I’ve learned about wellness and how getting back to nature can really benefit you psychologically as well as physically by improving everything from fitness levels to mental clarity.
“What has been brilliant about my experience is how much I’ve learned about myself and my local Nottingham community areas – I found an ancient woodland that I never knew existed and it made me realise the hidden beauty within our city.”
Zoe began documenting her journey on Instagram to promote the challenge, and found that people from around the world started following her with messages of support.
‘A community of support’
“I was extremely touched to receive a lovely message from a lady in America who said my efforts had inspired her to take up running again after lockdown,” said Zoe. “We’ve been supporting each other ever since.
“To discover a whole community of hikers and walkers internationally has been a privilege and opened my eyes to a wider world. The lady was a complete stranger but it’s so lovely to know you’ve had that impact on someone’s life – we’re now doing another virtual challenge together!
“The donations have been unreal and I am absolutely blown away by my supporters. Discovering that I was in JustGiving’s top 20% fundraisers globally last month is so overwhelming and it really shows how amazing everyone has been with their belief in me to succeed!”
Couch potato? Give walking a go!
“I can’t thank people enough,” Zoe said humbly. “You are the ones who have kept me going. From doing little to no exercise to the complete opposite was a challenge, but seeing the encouragement and messages transformed it into a real pleasure to complete it on their behalf.
“It has been a whole personal fitness and wellness journey and I hope to inspire people to know that if I can do it – others to give it a go, too. You don’t have to take on such a big distance, but even just grabbing your trainers and getting off the couch can be half the battle won.
“Being from Nottingham, we care about local people. To think I’ve helped a child in some way through this challenge – that is amazing.”